Last week’s break from running was eye-opening.
The fatigue that’s been a constant fog in my days lifted, which I had hoped would happen. I could once again do things in the evening, like strength training and household chores, instead of spending the entire evening on the coach buried under cats.
What surprised me was how much more time I had, especially on the weekend. This was the first time I took the entire weekend off running since my post-marathon recovery in November. But I probably took the entire weekend off running only a few times (once, twice, maybe three times?) in all of last year. I don’t think I’ve ever realized how much running eats away at the weekend!
My typical Saturday is spent running in the morning until mid-morning (or longer depending on mileage), coming home to do some combination of strength, stretching, and foam rolling, showering, eating lunch, and then taking the dog on our usual long walk or hike that takes anywhere from one to a few hours depending on where we go. By then it’s usually late afternoon, I haven’t done anything productive, and I don’t feel like doing anything because of being on my feet and active most of the day. That leaves Sunday to get my run in and strength if I didn’t do it Saturday and then all the things I didn’t do Saturday–meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking for dinners and lunches during the week, washing clothes, cleaning the house–and another long dog walk. By the end of Sunday I’m usually so tired from the weekend that I’m ready for the next weekend before the work week even starts.
But this past weekend when I didn’t run….ah! It was simply amazing. On Saturday I woke up early and, instead of running, started my list of weekend tasks that I’d usually put off until Sunday. I got so much done by Noon! We took the dog out for about an hour and a half, and when I got back I wasn’t tired. Crazy! I actually made it through an entire movie (The Invitation on Netflix–very good!) without falling asleep on the couch, which happens about 99% of the time when I watch movies. (On some nights, I’m so tired that I fall asleep during the opening credits; movies just make me sleepy in general. This is the reason we haven’t gone to a theater to watch a movie in over 13 years! Seriously!)
When Sunday dawned and the entire day stretched out before me and I realized I already had so much weekend stuff done, I was elated. Time! I had so much of it! That’s such a rare feeling, and it was such an awesome feeling. After doing strength training, I ended up doing stuff I haven’t done in forever like organizing and cleaning baseboards. And I still had time! I got done all of my meal prep for the week, which was awesome because I usually never get it all done. It’s so much easier to stay on track with my eating when I have healthy dinners and lunches prepared for the week. I made a big batch of vegan mushroom gravy (from one of the Happy Herbivore cookbooks) to pour over steamed kale. A big bowl of steamed kale really fills me up, and eating it with a delicious gravy is one of my favorite comfort foods. Sometimes I add beans or cubed, dry-sauteed tofu to it for protein but this week I added Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs. I try not to eat much packaged or processed foods, so this was my guilty pleasure of the week, because they’re delicious! I roasted cauliflower and chickpeas to add to salads and made a tahini salad dressing. Love the combination of roasted cauliflower and tahini! I roasted Brussels sprouts for a side and made a smoky chipotle mayo for black bean and spinach wraps. And I made a batch of tofu salad for sandwiches. Tofu salad is my go-to for a protein-rich meal that I can make in about 30 seconds. I made it in advance because the flavors are better when it sits in the fridge. I’m not going to tell you what’s in it because you’ll probably think it’s super gross; Dave thinks it’s the most disgusting thing I eat and refuses to even try it. Okay, I’ll tell you: It’s just raw tofu mashed with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and a bit of vegan mayo to hold it together. Mmmmmm. 🙂 I was going to bake cookies, but I’ve been doing so well with my eating I decided against it. Instead, I made a version of “instant cookie dough” from one of the Happy Herbivore cookbooks. I basically soaked some oats in vanilla soy milk then, once soft, mixed them with cocoa powder, a little peanut butter, and liquid stevia. Then I roll them into little balls for a small treat. Of course, they don’t taste like cookie dough, but it’s a small, sweet, and healthy treat that was good enough to satisfy me.
As you can see, I was pretty excited by all the things I could do during the weekend, all while not feeling tired. It made me wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t a runner. It also made me realize all the things I was sacrificing in order to run. Over the past few years I’ve given a lot to running, but it hasn’t given me a whole lot back. My triumphs have been quietly earned on dark early-morning training runs, while my failures are public and permanent in race results. While I love running, it doesn’t seem to love me back.
But I keep giving it another chance. By the end of the weekend I was looking forward to running again. I missed my early mornings running in the quiet dark with the trail mostly to myself, I missed the filling of completeness from starting the day running, and I very much missed running with my friends. And yet, I loved the extra time I had and not feeling so tired all the time (though I know that’s just a phase I’m going through; I’m usually not so exhausted by running unless I’m deep into hard training.) I haven’t made any big decisions about my running future. I’m still planning on training for my second marathon this year, and I’m excited about that. But the vision of a non-running life refuses to leave; I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind, but it’s still there…